Pluralistic: What Americans want (18 Oct 2023)

Today's links

  • What Americans want: Term limits for Congress, pack the Supreme Court, abolish the Electoral College, get money out of politics.
  • Hey look at this: Delights to delectate.
  • This day in history: 2003, 2013, 2018, 2022
  • Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading

An American flag, its blue and red elements replaced with shimmering gold. Before it is a gilded version of the US Capitol Dome. From behind it loom a giant, zombified Uncle Sam and an impatient man in a business suit, starting at a sheaf of papers.

What Americans want (permalink)

If you aspire to be a Very Serious Person (and whomst amongst us doesn't?) then you know why we can't have nice things. The American people won't stand for court packing, Congressional term limits, the abolition of the Electoral College, or campaign finance limits. Politics is the art of the possible, and these just aren't possible.

Friends, you've been lied to.

The latest Pew Research mega-report investigates Americans' attitudes towards politics, and honestly, the title says it all: "Americans’ Dismal Views of the Nation’s Politics":

The American people hate Congress. They hate the parties. They hate the president. They hate the 2024 presidential candidates. They loathe the Supreme Court. Approval for America's bedrock institutions are at historic lows. Disapprovals are at historic highs.

The report's subtitle speaks volumes: "65% say they always or often feel exhausted when thinking about politics." Who can blame them? After all: "63% express not too much or no confidence at all in the future of the U.S. political system."

"Just 4% of U.S. adults say the political system is working extremely or very well": that is to say, there are more Americans who think Elvis is alive than who think US politics are working well.

There are differences, of course. Young people have less hope than older people. Republicans are more reactionary than Democrats. Racialized people trust institutions less than white people.

But there are also broad, bipartisan, cross-demographic, intergenerational agreements, and these may surprise you:

Take Congressional term-limits. 87% of US adults support these. Only 12% oppose them.

Everyone knows American gerontocracy is a problem. I mean, for one thing, it's destabilizing. There's a significant chance that neither of the presumptive US presidential candidates will be alive on inauguration day:

But beyond the inexorable logic of actuarial science, there's the problem that our Congress of septuagenarians have served for decades, and are palpably out-of-touch with their constituents' lives. And those constituents know it, which is why 79% of Americans favor age limits for elected officials and Supreme Court justices:

Not all of this bipartisan agreement is positive. 76% of Americans have been duped into favoring a voter ID requirement to solve the nonexistent problem of voter fraud by imposing a racialized, wealth-based poll-tax. But even here, there's a silver lining: 62% of American support automatically registering every eligible voter.

Threats to pack the Supreme Court have a long and honorable tradition in this country. It's how Lincoln got his antislavery agenda, and how FDR got the New Deal:

The majority of Americans don't want to pack the court…yet. The race is currently neck-and-neck – 51% opposed, 46% in favor, and with approval for the Supreme Court at lows not seen since the 2400 baud era, court-packing is an idea with serious momentum:

66% of Democrats want the court packed. 58% of under 30s – of every affiliation – favor the proposal.

And two thirds (65%) of Americans want to abolish the Electoral College and award the presidency to the candidate with the most votes. That includes nearly half (47%) of Republicans, and two thirds of independents.

Americans believe – correctly – that their elected representatives are more beholden to monied interests than to a sense of duty towards their constituents. Or, as a pair of political scientists put it in their widely cited 2014 paper:

Economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

So yeah, no surprise that 70% of Americans believe that voters have too little influence over their elected lawmakers. 83% of Republicans say big campaign donors call the shots. 80% of Democrats agree.

Which is why 72% of Americans want to limit political spending (76% for Democrats, 71% for Republicans). The majority of Americans – 58% – believe that it is possible to get money out of politics with well-crafted laws.

Americans truly do have a "dismal view of the nation's politics," and who can blame them? But if you "feel exhausted thinking about the nation's politics," consider this – the majority of Americans, including Republicans, want to:

  • abolish the electoral college;

  • impose campaign spending limits;

  • put term limits on elected officials and Supreme Court justices;

  • put age limits on elected officials and Supreme Court justices; and

  • automatically register every eligible American to vote.

What's more, packing the Supreme Court is a coin-toss, and it's growing more popular day by day.

Which is all to say, yes, things are really screwed up, but everyone knows it and everyone agrees on the commonsense measures that would fix it.

Hey look at this (permalink)

A Wayback Machine banner.

This day in history (permalink)

#20yrsago RIAA streamlines confiscation of customers’ life’s savings

#20yrsago Google softens AdSense ToS

#20yrsago What’s Radical About the Weblog Form in Journalism?

#10yrsago UK government sends 40,000 texts to semi-random foreigners (and some Brits): “You are required to leave the UK!”

#10yrsago TSA admits “terrorists in America are not plotting against aviation”

#5yrsago A data-driven look at the devastating efficacy of a far-right judge-education program

#5yrsago US veterans operate in Yemen as mercenary assassins for Middle Eastern autocrats

#5yrsago Slaves – including children – make the bricks for Cambodia’s housing bubble

#5yrsago Deleting Facebook is not enough: without antitrust, the company will be our lives’ “operating system”

#5yrsago Nobel-winning economist Joe Stiglitz on how the US economy became a “rigged, inherited plutocracy” and how to fix it

#5yrsago City of Seattle’s official tow partner impounded a homeless woman’s stolen car and wanted $21,634 to give it back

#5yrsago GDPR: Good for privacy, even better for Google’s dominance

#5yrsago Radical expansion of Australia’s national firewall will censor search results and websites

#5yrsago Anaheim’s living wage ballot measure pits big corporate donors against union money

#1yrago Being good at your job is praxis: The FTC can mandate Right to Repair without (further) Congressional authorization

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources:

Currently writing:

* A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING

* Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. FORTHCOMING TOR BOOKS JAN 2025

* The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. FORTHCOMING TOR BOOKS FEB 2024

* Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FORTHCOMING ON TOR.COM

* Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

* Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FORTHCOMING ON TOR.COM

Latest podcast: The Lost Cause (excerpt)
Upcoming appearances:

* 41st annual McCreight Lecture in the Humanities (Charleston, WV), Oct 19

* Taylor Books (Charleston, WV), Oct 20, 12h-14h

* Seizing the Means of Computation (Edinburgh Futures Institute), Oct 25

* The Internet Con at the Internet Archive (virtual), Oct 31

Recent appearances:

* Grim Grinning Ghosts (That Hallowe'en Podcast)

* 1000 w/Ron Placone—004-e2a420a

* An Audacious Plan to Halt the Internet's Enshittification (Burning Man Center Camp)

Latest books:

* "The Internet Con": A nonfiction book about interoperability and Big Tech (Verso) September 2023 ( Signed copies at Book Soup (

* "Red Team Blues": "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books Signed copies at Dark Delicacies (US): and Forbidden Planet (UK):

* "Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin", on how to unrig the markets for creative labor, Beacon Press/Scribe 2022

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The *Washington Post* called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. (signed copies:

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden:; personalized/signed copies here:

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: Get a personalized, signed copy here:

Upcoming books:

* The Lost Cause: a post-Green New Deal eco-topian novel about truth and reconciliation with white nationalist militias, Tor Books, November 2023

* The Bezzle: a sequel to "Red Team Blues," about prison-tech and other grifts, Tor Books, February 2024

* Picks and Shovels: a sequel to "Red Team Blues," about the heroic era of the PC, Tor Books, February 2025

* Unauthorized Bread: a graphic novel adapted from my novella about refugees, toasters and DRM, FirstSecond, 2025

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